For Amber Wilkie and Christopher Comella, like many expats, this is an experience they know only too well. But rather than throwing in the towel on a dream Scandinavian move, Amber and Christopher took matters into their own hands by enrolling in the Craft Academy programming bootcamp.
Amber, a professional photographer who used to run her own business in Washington DC, moved to Sweden in January earlier this year, and Christopher (also from DC) moved to Sweden in 2006, after meeting his Swedish wife in the US back in 2003. Initially, they found their Nordic transition to be somewhat exasperating.
“I spent the first six months or so learning Swedish and taking Folkuniversitetet intensive courses, thinking that would help me get a job,” Amber explains. “Sweden wasn't appreciative of my experience as an entrepreneur.”
After struggling in the job market for a short while, Amber turned to her undeveloped passion in search of new beginnings and opportunities.
“My brief experience job hunting was frustrating, so I thought it was time to get serious about coding.”
Christopher, on the other hand, tried to find his feet in Sweden by attempting to launch different startup projects.
“I was not a software developer at all but I wanted to start a startup project. I tried to teach myself and work with freelancers but I didn't get very far,” he says.
Although his startup attempts came to no avail, Christopher established a new passion for programming and software development.
“I became very interested in technology and software and development,” he says. “I found a programme at Gothenburg University and I got a second bachelor's degree in software engineering and management. It was a great programme, but very academic – I knew a lot about software engineering but I didn't have any practical experience. ”
Enter Craft Academy: bootcamp for programmers-to-be.
Christopher found out about the coding bootcamp after his wife worked with the founder of Craft Academy, Thomas Ochman, at Chalmers Innovation when he was first launching the programme.
Thomas' unique vision for Craft Academy was something that truly appealed to Christopher.
"So many people want to learn how to code, but a four-year Computer Science degree seems impossible to work into their schedule,” Thomas tells The Local. “It's exciting to offer the opportunity to change your career and your life in such a short time."
Christopher enrolled and was one of the very first students of Craft Academy.
“The bootcamp is structured and intense – full time, all day every day,” Christopher says. “It's a bit of a roller coaster ride; sometimes you feel on top of the world and sometimes you're stuck, trying to debug code for hours at a time – you need persistence and discipline.”
Amber found out about the programme earlier this year and has just completed her own intensive course.
“We built several large projects with a backend server. You have your database – that's where all your information is kept, and a web app that can access it,” she tells The Local. “For instance, we built an app called Quizmaster, a web and mobile app for pub quizzes. We built some really cool stuff.”
Amber has emerged from the life-changing 12 weeks as a competent programmer with invaluable experience of building programs and innovative apps from scratch. Learning such advanced coding skills is no piece of cake, however. She notes that the course has been as challenging as it has been fun.
“It has been gruelling, and exhausting, fun at times and challenging at times,” she claims. “It's hard to keep getting pushed for so long, but it's good – I feel confident about what we have learned.”
The coding bootcamp may be demanding, but Thomas (founder and Lead Coach) insists Craft Academy also focuses on making the experience as valuable and enjoyable as possible for all students, whether they attend the camp in Gothenburg or online.
"We try to be flexible here at Craft Academy. We put a lot of thought into student experiences - both for local and remote learners. Our students become friends and colleagues, and build complex applications together. As much as possible we encourage them to lean on each other."
Participating in Craft Academy's bootcamp, Christopher tells The Local, readied him for the exciting world of software development.
“You are prepared to go out into the world and get a job as a junior software developer at a company,” Christopher explains. “You are also in a position, if you have entrepreneurial interests, to start working on your own projects, or collaborate with others on theirs. It gives a lot of options for people.”
Armed with their new programming skills, Amber and Christopher are now eager to explore the myriad of opportunities that await them in the Swedish and international job market.
“It seems like there is a lot of demand [for people with programming competence],” Amber says. “I have a couple of job notification subscriptions, and get a dozen ads a day. I'm looking forward to exploring my options.”
Although prior experience in coding is not needed to enrol with Craft Academy, a passion for programming is a must. Christopher warns not to join Craft Academy solely for the prospective money.
“You have to be interested or you might hate it,” he exclaims. “Don't go into it for the money, but if you're interested – then it's fantastic, and will give you a lot of opportunities.”
The saying goes: if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. When opportunity didn't knock for Amber and Christopher, they enrolled in the Craft Academy programming bootcamp and built themselves a sizeable door… as well as an app or two…
“Usually transitioning to another career takes a long time,” Amber says. “To do just three months and come out on the other end ready is worth it.”
“It was an amazing experience,” says Christopher. “I can't believe how much I learned in such a short period of time.”
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Craft Academy.